Trabant tourist "tank" ready to roll through Berlin

Fri Feb 4, 2011 7:07am EST
 
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BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Cold war buffs will soon be able to roll through Berlin in a mini tank built from East Germany's best known car -- the Trabant.

Painted camouflage green and decked out with a fake cannon on the roof, the Trabant tank is the latest attraction tapping into the German capital's unique postwar history.

The brainchild of businessman Maik Fraustein, the "Trabi tank" will start rolling through streets in May, joining the tour company owner's fleet of some 50 Trabants.

"It made sense. Trabants are connected with East Germany and the Berlin Wall, and they're a 'fan car' tourists are attracted to," Fraustein told Reuters. "There are no Trabant tanks."

Long the butt of jokes for their slowness and plastic body, the matchbox-like cars with two-stroke engines have become a cult item in Germany in recent years and a number of companies offer Trabant tours of former East German cities.

Fraustein is confident the pint-sized tank will be a hit, but not everyone in the capital is happy about the mixture of nostalgia for East Germany and warfare.

"Tasteless," is what German mass-circulation daily Bild said of the tank. The chairman of the Berlin Wall Memorial, Manfred Fischer, told the paper the idea was "more than macabre."

"Sure there's been criticism of it," said Fraustein. "But it's a joke that a Trabi could double up as a tank."

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey, editing by Paul Casciato)